Over the past few weeks we have seen a number of crops being harvested and we will see more in the coming weeks. One crop that has a significant economic impact in our community is the tomato. Did you know that Chatham-Kent is the No. 1 producer of tomatoes in all of Canada?
There are two basic types of tomatoes grown in our area. One can be referred to as “fresh market” tomatoes. These are the tomatoes you buy at the local farmer’s market or grocery store or the ones you would grow in your backyard. These are often the “beefsteak” varieties – large and juicy.
The other type is called ‘processing tomatoes’ and these are used as the name suggests, for processing. These tomatoes would go into products such as tomato juice, ketchup, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned, whole and diced peeled, tomato soup, and so on. Due to the mechanical harvesting and bulk handling requirements, these tomatoes have thicker flesh walls and a stronger outer skin. The centre core on most processing varieties is virtually absent to further enhance canned peel quality.
There are a number of processors in Chatham-Kent and Essex who handle tomatoes, including three in our community. These are ConAgra Foods in Dresden, Harvest-Pac Products in Chatham, and Weil’s Food Processing in Wheatley.
Processing tomatoes account for most of the tomatoes grown in Ontario and in Chatham-Kent. This year, Ontario producers planted around 10,600 acres of processing tomatoes, which is up from 9,400 acres last year. If you recall, the lower acreage last year was attributed to the Heinz closure in Leamington. The new company, Highbury Canco, took over operations of that facility and are continuing to expand their acres, as are each of the tomato processors in Chatham-Kent and Essex.
Of the total acres of tomatoes grown in Ontario, Chatham-Kent accounts for around 55 per cent and Essex County around 45 per cent.
Tomatoes, which are actually a fruit and not a vegetable, are loaded with all kinds of health benefits for the body. They are a highly versatile health product and due to their many preparation options, tomatoes can be an important part of a healthy diet.
One of the most well-known tomato eating benefit is its ‘Lycopene’ content, which is a vital anti-oxidant helping in the fight against cancerous cell formation as well as other kinds of health complications and diseases.
Lycopene is not a naturally produced element within the human body, and while other fruits and vegetables do contain this necessary health ingredient, no other fruit or vegetable has the concentration of Lycopene that the tomato contains.
Tomatoes also contain large amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, as well as potassium and iron.
With the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in our Chatham-Kent area, go ahead and have a toasted tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread. And thanks for supporting our local producers – it’s so important for all of us.
Think about this – The most meaningful mathematical equation: One cross plus four nails equals four-given.
Just some food for thought.
Here in Chatham-Kent ‘WE GROW FOR THE WORLD’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 40 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’